Copa America Centenario 101 – All you need to know about Copa America Centenario

The brightest stars in world soccer are headed to the US next summer, and they’ll be playing for keeps.

The US will host the Copa America Centenario in June 2016, with 10 South American national teams joined by six CONCACAF countries – including the United States and Mexico – for a 16-team tournament.

Traditionally contested by the 10 CONMEBOL nations and two outside invitees, the 2016 Copa America will be hosted by US Soccer, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF as a one-off tournament in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of South America’s most prestigious international competition. Some of the sport’s biggest names will be in the US for the tournament, with Lionel Messi likely to captain Argentina, Neymar a shoo-in for Brazil’s roster and James Rodriguez presumably set to lead Colombia.

MLS should have a significant presence in the competition, with the league’s sizable US national team contingent likely joined by MLS players from Costa Rica, Jamaica and potentially Mexico, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, the latter two of which still need to qualify for the tournament.

How is the Centenario different from Copa America?

As mentioned above, the Copa America is South America’s premier international tournament. The longest running international soccer tournament in the world, it’s the continent’s equivalent of the UEFA European Championship or the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The tournament has had many iterations in its 100-year history, with the current format coming into play in 2007. That was the year CONMEBOL shifted to holding the tournament once every four years, with all 10 members of the South American confederation joined by two other countries for a 12-team tournament.

The 12 teams are divided into three groups of four, with the top two teams from each group and the best two third-place finishers advancing to an eight-team knockout round. Chile hosted the tournament in June 2015, with the hosts winning the title – their first – by beating Argentina in penalties in the final.

Uruguay has won the most Copa America titles, taking home the trophy 15 times. Argentina is in second with 14 titles, and Brazil rounds out the top-three with eight championships. Ecuador and Venezuela are the only two CONMEBOL countries that have never won the tournament.

The 2016 Centenario, of course, will be a little different. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the tournament, CONMEBOL partnered with US Soccer and CONCACAF to stage a juiced-up version of the event in the States. The tournament, which has never before been hosted outside of South America, should captivate the attention of the entire Western Hemisphere, with big teams and big stars set to face off for the first trophy of its kind.

Which countries are participating?

Sixteen teams will compete in the Copa America Centenario, with all 10 CONMEBOL federations joined by six CONCACAF countries.

The US and Mexico automatically qualified for the tournament, and Jamaica and Costa Rica are already in the field as winners of the 2014 Caribbean Cup and 2014 Copa Centroamericana, respectively.

By virtue of their finishes at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, four teams – Cuba, Haiti, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago – all qualified for the Copa America Centenario qualifying playoffs. The teams were seeded based on their Gold Cup results, with top-seed Panama set to take on fourth-seeded Cuba and second-seed Trinidad and Tobago scheduled to battle Haiti in one-off matches for spots in the Centenario field. Both qualification matches will be held in Panama City, Panama on Jan. 8.

When and where will the tournament be played?

The Copa America Centenario will kick off on June 3 and will conclude with the final on June 26. A total of 10 stadiums were selected from of a group of 24 bidders to host tournament matches, with the minimum stadium capacity for the tournament set at 60,219.

Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California will host the tournament opener on June 3, when the USA will take on Colombia. The final will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The complete group-stage matchups were determined by the Copa America Centenario draw, held in New York City on February 21. In addition to the opener, the USMNT will play group stage games at Soldier Field vs. Costa Rica (June 7) and Lincoln Financial Field vs. Paraguay (June 11); Brazil is at the Rose Bowl (June 4), Citrus Bowl (June 8), and Gillette Stadium (June 12); Mexico at University of Phoenix Stadium (June 5), the Rose Bowl (June 9), and NRG Stadium (June 13); and Argentina at Levi’s Stadium (June 6), Soldier Field (June 10), and CenturyLink Field (June 14)

List of host stadiums:

  • CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash.
  • Citrus Bowl – Orlando, Fla.
  • Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Mass
  • Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, Calif.
  • Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia, Pa.
  • MetLife Stadium – East Rutherford, N.J.
  • NRG Stadium – Houston, Texas
  • Rose Bowl – Pasadena, Calif.
  • Soldier Field – Chicago, Ill.
  • University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Ariz.

What’s the format?

The tournament format is relatively straightforward. The 16 teams will be drawn into four groups of four teams each, with each team set to play the other teams in their group once. The top two teams in each group will advance to the knockout round, with the eight remaining teams then playing a single-elimination, win or go home tournament culminating in the June 26 final.

If tied at the end of regulation, group stage matches will end as a draw, while knockout round games will move to two 15-minute periods of extra time. If the teams are still tied after extra time, the game will be decided by a penalty kick shootout.

Unlike other regional championships, the Copa America Centenario winner will not earn a berth to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. CONCACAF and CONMEBOL have already determined their representatives for the Confederations Cup, with Mexico beating the US in the CONCACAF Cup in October to earn a spot in Russia and Chile qualifying for the tournament by virtue of their 2015 Copa America title.


Photo: ISI Photos

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